(By Victor Davis Hanson) (2021)
This is a thought-provoking argument that the classical concept of citizenship (the essence of a democratic nation) as developed and refined from the Greeks, Romans, and ‘aristocratic’ revolutionaries, is becoming denuded of meaning or relevance, and that a new tribalism (subject to a new “balkanized spoils system“) is fast replacing it, per the convenience of the governing elites (on the divide-and-rule paradigm). The author ranges wide but without attenuation, contrasting citizens with peasants (we prefer the more colouful term ‘peons’), residents and tribes, and then showing how the very concept of American citizenship – necessary in a diverse nation of 350 million people – is fast fraying; due to the permanent state of unelected bureaucrats, governing elites that treat the citizenry as roadkill on the golden highway to utopia, and, on a higher and more abstract level, the rise of (in practice, totalitarian) globalisation. As Lionel Shriver, with reference to this book, put it*; “Globalisation, mass unassimilated immigration and the left’s cultivation of self-disgust have steadily turned us into mere residents, with no fervent commitment to a shared culture and past.”
“In The Dying Citizen, Hanson outlines the historical forces that led to this crisis. The evisceration of the middle class and the rise of inequality have made many Americans dependent on the federal government…open borders and the elite concept of “global citizenship” have rendered meaningless the idea of allegiance to a particular place…identity politics have eradicated the idea of a collective civic sense of self. A vastly expanded bureaucracy has overwhelmed the power of elected officials, thereby destroying the sovereign power of the citizen.”**
Some examples from the book:
“Simply put, corporate America wanted cheap imported labor without the bother of unionization. Hand in glove with business, the progressive Left agreed with virtual open borders. Progressives assumed either that massive influxes from an impoverished Mexico and Central America would eventually lead to a politically useful new demography or that the United States should use its resources to help the foreign poor by inviting them to enter America.”
“How odd that America’s current progressive turn to tribalism and primary self-identification by race and gender is reactionary to the core…identity politics is at its essence precivilizational…Once tribalism takes hold, it is almost impossible to thwart this ancient narcotic or to prevent it from destroying the centuries-long and much harder work of establishing multiracial nationhood and citizenship.”
“…the charge that…'”systemic racism,” permeates all of American society is rarely demonstrated. Still, the charge is put to good use by the industry of diversity that must find ever-subtler ways of tracking down biases by employing terms like “microaggressions” and “implicit bias” that reveal by their very qualifiers a poverty of such overt pathologies.”
The ‘deep state’ emerged howling from the swamp when Donald Trump was elected President. A cabal of forces – the bureaucracy, the arms of government, corporate America, including Big Tech, State houses, and, critically, the Fourth Estate – allied in an effort to sweep him away, in Wotan fashion. It worked. But what of the cost? As the author observes: “…when journalistic bias is institutionalized and serves the state with the speed and electronic massaging of the internet, the citizen becomes orphaned from the world around him.”
Of the absurd aspects of globalisation, Hanson is particularly on song: preening Davos hypocrites; virtue-signalling, treacherous billionaires and academic groves both extolling the humanity of their commercial overlords, the Chinese Communist Party; jet-setting warmists; the deeply woke deep state; traitorous ‘citizens of the world’ who deprecate border walls whilst building them around their residences, for whom a national constitution is but a guideline. Referring to governance in California, where he lives, Hanson notes the global symposia held there where handwringing over foreign poverty and destitution occurs, while that great state degenerates into a basket case, where the fabulously rich and the most wretched untermensch live almost side by side, akin to the stark divide one sees in places such as Rio. His take:
“In sum, globalization rests on few poorly examined laws…Discussions of abstract cosmic challenges – achieving world peace, cooling the planet, lowering the seas, dismantling secure borders – are psychological ways to square the circle of failure to solve concrete problems at home from war to poverty.”
Hanson ends the book with a comment on the rise of a nationalist (Donald Trump) and how his somewhat inchoate attempts to revive American citizenry were done down by the very forces now hell-bent on turning the idea of America into an irrelevant and irrational confusion, as seen in that wrought by the puppeteers of the current administration. Under President Biden, the southern U.S. border is a porous catastrophe, with some 2 or more million undocumented and un-vetted illegals entering and at large, along with hefty supplies of Chinese-supplied fentanyl and Covid-19; An emotive and brain-addled foreign policy conducted by officials who seemingly can’t read a map or have never won a war; An education establishment bent on Marxist indoctrination, gender propaganda and racked by anti-Americanism; Soaring inflation higher than any in the last two or three generations, amounting to a new payroll tax; Burgeoning crime left undisturbed by law enforcement and prosecution; Mass confusion over which tribe is in the ascendant at any time and tribal identifiers drawn from wish and affect rather than logic and fact; An Executive that flouts Court Orders and carries little weight with the Legislature, and two people occupying the highest positions and authority in the U.S. who are manifestly unequipped for the role.
One wonders if American citizenship is dead, or just coughing up blood. Truly, there are signs of a re-set. One can but hope.
[* The Spectator, 19/3/22.] [** From the blurb.]